The Kingdom’s Botched War in Yemen
Saudi Arabia has spent the past five years fighting off Iran-backed Shia rebels in a seemingly endless conflict that has cost more than 100,000 lives and left 80% of the population in need of humanitarian assistance. Only by backing UN-led peace talks will it be possible to achieve a political settlement.
CANBERRA – Despite more than five years of military intervention in Yemen, the Saudi-led coalition’s campaign has failed to save the country from disintegration. The Southern Transitional Council (STC), backed by the United Arab Emirates, now occupies the important port of Aden, and, to the dismay of Saudi Arabia, has declared self-rule over the south. But this de facto partition ultimately may not reduce instability in Yemen and the region.
In fact, Yemen already is effectively divided into three territorial entities. The Saudi-backed government of President Abdu Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, now exiled, and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels control the other two. This has prolonged the fighting – described as “a civil war within a civil war” – with profound geostrategic implications.
The conflict has persisted since early 2015, when the Arab coalition, comprising of Saudi Arabia and eight other countries, including the UAE, launched a massive military intervention. The main architect was Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), now the kingdom’s de facto ruler. A crucial supporter was the equally forceful Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ), Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.